Smart Ideas: Xi Has Become Indispensable to China. That's What Makes Him Dangerous

Also: How the Khashoggi imbroglio affects Israel.

AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein
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Oct. 18, 2018, 8 p.m.

Xi’s power grab threatens global stability

Jonathan Tepperman, writing for Foreign Policy

When Deng Xiaoping launched his signature reforms in the late 1970s, China adopted an “adaptive authoritarian” regime: nominally communist but fiscally capitalist and liberal. Under this “unusually effective” regime, Chinese thinkers and entrepreneurs could innovate, and China was able to “avoid many of the pathologies suffered by other authoritarian regimes.” President Xi Jinping is abandoning that model. In the name of “fighting corruption,” Xi has purged his political opponents: “In the last six years, a staggering 1.34 million officials have been targeted, and more than 170 leaders at the minister or deputy minister level have been fired.” He has made himself irreplaceable to the Chinese state, by “abandoning the term limits on his job and by refusing to name a successor,” and by assuming “direct control of the armed forces.” His government has even “begun discouraging small-scale pilot programs,” which were key to China’s economic development, but rely on independent thinking that Xi views as “an intolerable threat.” Since personalized dictatorships are always “bad at admitting fault—for nothing can be permitted to damage the myth of the omnipotent leader,” expect China to become less adept at correcting mistakes at home, and abroad. Given China’s rising economic and military might, those mistakes could prove cataclysmic.

Trump is encouraging the Fed on rate increases

Gwynn Guilford, writing for Quartz

President Trump, known during his business career as the "king of debt," has long preferred low interest rates. That partly explains how he's lashed out at the Federal Reserve for its recent rate increases, calling it everything from "loco" to "ridiculous." But "thanks to the Fed’s need to maintain the appearance of independence, Trump’s histrionics have now made it much harder for it not to keep hiking interest rates. ... If the Fed were to hold off on expected rate hikes, it would look like it was caving to the president’s pressure."

What Khashoggi means for Israel

Daniel B. Shapiro, writing for Haaretz

Saudi Arabia’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi “raises fundamental questions for the United States and Israel about their whole strategic concept in the Middle East” and the country’s reliability as a partner in checking Iran under “the new Middle East realities it has sought to promote—an Israeli-Sunni Arab coalition, under a U.S. umbrella.” Any U.S. actions against Saudi Arabia “could include significant restrictions on arms sales that had been contemplated. … Israel, which has a clear interest in keeping Saudi Arabia in the fold of U.S. allies to maximize the strategic alignment on Iran, will need to avoid becoming MBS’s lobbyist in Washington. Israel’s coordination with its partners in the region is still necessary and desirable. Simple realpolitik requires it. But there is a new risk of reputational damage from a close association with Saudi Arabia.“

The front entrance to the Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

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